The future is usually hazy for me. I wasn’t impressed when first introduced to the Macintosh II in 1988, figuring the computer would take its place beside the waxer as a pasteup tool. I didn’t predict my wife would be upset when I forgot her birthday. But it was clear to me that neuromarketing would be big.
The question is whether we will expect too much of it. I was reminded of this just this morning while listening to “NPR’s ‘Mozart Effect’ Was Just What We Wanted To Hear.” The piece talks about the parenting movement spawned by psychologist Francis Rausher’s study indicating that students who had listened to a Mozart sonata scored higher on a spacial-temporal task. A cottage industry of Mozart CDs for young ones sprang up, and states like Georgia and Tennessee started giving out free CDs to every baby.
Then came the backlash when our children’s intelligence failed to improve overnight.
But the original study promised nothing of the sort. Rauscher had simply made a modest finding within a certain set of parameters. The media and self-proclaimed experts wanted it to be more than it was. And, of course, we parents wanted it to be more as well. Who doesn’t want a smarter kid? My mom still does.
And who doesn’t want smarter marketing? The key is to not run wild with a one modest study, even–or especially– if it seems to reinforce what you want in the first place (confirmation bias strikes again). This is the biggest concern of neuroscientists: that marketers will abuse scientific findings. The Mozart effect story is a reminder for us to use and triangulate multiple data sources.
Or just forge ahead, and deal with the backlash later. At least you might sell a few books and CDs.